A Glimpse of Worship in Heaven
After having dictated our Lord’s messages to the churches, we now find John caught up into heaven to see things which “must take place after this.” But before he is allowed to see things concerning the hereafter, he first sees things of eternity, things of such indescribable beauty that he struggles with words to paint the majesty of that displayed before his eyes. For before his eyes is a throne and One seated thereupon. He uses precious gems to describe the One upon the throne, but even these do not do justice to the scene. Twenty-four thrones with regal elders seated upon them surround the one great throne. There are flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. And then four very odd-looking creatures are described who are closest to the throne.
Of course, what John is seeing in the throne room of heaven itself, and the One seated upon the throne is the Lord God Almighty Himself. The odd-looking creatures are the highest order of angelic beings (perhaps cherubim), while the twenty-four elders may represent the twelve tribes of Israel of the Old Testament and the twelve apostles of the New, indicating the completion of revelation and the totality of God’s people under both covenants.
The scene is so awesome. We must remember that when we gather for worship, these members of the heavenly court are our visitors, as we are reminded in Hebrews 12:18-29. But what is even more awe-inspiring are the words the angelic beings lead everyone to say: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come!” It is a statement concerning who our God is, that He is first and foremost holy. Nowhere in the Bible is another adjective used to describe our God in this threefold way. We do not read, “Loving, loving, loving” or “Gracious, gracious, gracious, is the Lord God Almighty.” Certainly, He is. But the Bible would have us know that the most essential characteristic of God is His holiness, His otherness, His set apart-ness, His “He’s the only One who is who He is – ness.” And so the first commandment tells us, “You shall have no other gods besides me,” because there are no other gods but Him. Only He is God. And because He is God, He is eternal. There never was a time when He was not, and there never shall be a time when He is not. We remember that when He spoke to Moses, He named Himself, “I Am,” because He is (Exodus 3:14). Only He has life in Himself. He is the eternal One, the self-existent One, the holy One. He is.